In what is probably a law of averages/regression to the mean situation, a decent issue of War of the Realms happened as Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, and Matthew Wilson stopped crafting trailers for tie-in issues (For the most part.) and turned in a damn good Odin and Freyja story. Throughout his run on Thor, Aaron has done a fantastic job creating character journeys for Odinson’s supporting cast and rekindles some of that old magic as Iron-Odin and Freyja go all Thermopylae against the Dark Elves. As far as tie-ins, we’ve got two hits and a (near) miss. Inconsistent art and directionless plotting squander the amazing cast that Dennis “Hopeless” Hallum, Kim Jacinto, and Ario Anindito have been gifted with in War Avengers while Spider-Man and the League of the Realms and Giant-Man are basically throwing shit at the wall to see if it sticks. And it does thanks to Nico Leon’s clean art, Sean Ryan’s heroic writing of Spidey, and Leah Williams’ wonderful wit.
War of the Realms #4
Freyja has been a complete and utter badass during the course of the “War of the Realms” event leading the charge as all her male relatives are Frost Giant food or injured. With the foresight that comes from her background as a Vanir goddess, she can both ward off hordes of Dark Elves and coordinate the Avengers recruiting surviving members of other realms to make a last stand on Midgard. Russell Dauterman and Matthew Wilson channel Jack Kirby a little bit when showing her action using Kirby krackle and squiggly lines to demonstrate her magical powers and a black and pink palette that intensifies into red once her situation gets more dire.
And speaking of dire, this is what motivates an injured Odin to jump into battle. He truly cares about his wife and is angry that Ghost Rider, She-Hulk, Blade, and Punisher left her by herself at the Black Bifrost. He is very pissed off, and not even Captain America’s good wishes can calm him down. Luckily, Tony Stark has forged him an incredibly cool, golden suit of armor in one of the series’ most badass moments. Aaron also does an excellent job writing a bickering couple even sneaking in a joke about how Odin isn’t great in bed as they reach their end. Over the course of four issues, he and Dauterman have taken almost everyone away from Thor, and he is ready to be a hero with his axe, hammer, metal arm, and interruption of Jane Foster. This arc for Thor is very in line with his recent characterization in the Marvel movies, and I’m curious how many of these “deaths” will actually hold up once the event is over.
War of the Realms #4 has bits that feel like trailers for other issues (She-Hulk’s motivational speech to the dwarves of Nidavellir is very funny though.), but Jason Aaron’s focus on Freyja and Odin’s characterization combined with Russell Dauterman and Matthew Wilson’s beautiful, yet tragic visuals of their final stand give the comic an Overall Verdict of Read.
War of the Realms Strikeforce: The War Avengers #1
Writer Dennis “Hopeless” Hallum, artists Kim Jacinto and Ario Anindito, and colorists Java Tartaglia and Felipe Sobreiro’s War Avengers one-shot is set up back in War of the Realms #3 with Freyja sending a team led by Captain Marvel to coordinate the defense of Midgard. The members of this team are Deadpool, Sif, Weapon H (Hulk and Wolverine combined for some reason.), Winter Soldier, Black Widow, and Captain Britain comes into help later. Hopeless understands the voices of these characters very well with inappropriately timed quips for Deadpool, a badass warrior vibe for Sif, strong military leadership from Carol, and simmering black ops chemistry between Natasha and Bucky that would make Ed Brubaker and Mark Waid smile. As the team heads to London to try to take out Malekith, he even writes one hell of a Union Jack, who quaffs a pint while waiting for the next wave of Dark Elves.
This previous paragraph made War Avengers #1 sound like a damn fine team comic, but it’s not. I know that deadlines are a thing and this issue is longer than usual Marvel ones, but Jacinto and Anindito’s art is very hit and miss and doesn’t really mesh. Some scenes are more cartoonish while others are stiffly rendered. This stiffness comes at awkward moments like an extended bit with Deadpool and a shark, or Black Widow and Winter Soldier doing a cool stealth mission to steal mechs from Frost Giants. But there are some good panels here and there like when Deadpool makes a joke about a scene of Natasha leaping from an explosion being a good movie poster for her. Sometimes, this comic does feel like Dennis Hallum unloading every joke he has for Deadpool at one go.
So, unlike the excellent Dark Elf Realm one-shot, Hallum doesn’t really have a focus after the Frost Giant heist mission and the failed attack on Malekith wrapping the comic up with some statements about war straight out of All Quiet on the Western Front’s Cliff Notes. With the exception of Venom’s capture, he doesn’t show the War Avengers being beaten back by Malekith and ends the issue with a Carol voiceover and setting up their next “mission”. This lack of conclusiveness plus inconsistent art earns War Avengers #1 an Overall Verdict of Pass even though I personally love this team lineup.
War of the Realms: Spider-Man & the League of Realms #1
Sean Ryan, Nico Leon, and Carlos Lopez take one of the coolest concepts from Jason Aaron’s Thor run and craft a heartwarming, occasionally quirky heroic story in Spider-Man & the League of Realms #1. The story opens with Spider-Man driving a jeep to Lagos, Nigeria with a Light Elf, Dwarf, Mountain Giant, and Vanir god in tow. They’re trying to liberate Lagos from the Angels of Heven, who now rule the continent of Africa. The result is Spider-Man awkwardly trying to keep a team that has a couple killers at bay and looking out for regular people while angels rain down fire and fury from above.
What really makes this comic work is the clean lines of Nico Leon, which make the story fun and easy to follow even if you, like me, forgot half the names of the League of the Realms members. Leon works with colorist Carlos Lopez to highlight important parts of each panel like a gorgeous church in the background where Fernande, the Angel commander and a definite crusader type, has her headquarters. His Spider-Man is quite expressive, and he treats the mask like a face and not something static. Ryan gives him plenty of action to draw, but this comic has a pretty peaceful ending for a “War of the Realms” tie-in. It’s a done in one story and also has a cool cliffhanger plus Ryan creates tension between Spider-Man and the more violent members of his team that will probably lead to more conflict down the road.
Even though he’s in Lagos, not Queens, and is palling around with an Elf, Dwarf (I love me some Screwbeard.), god, troll, and not the Human Torch or Mary Jane, Spider-Man & the League of Realms #1 is still a great Spider-Man story. Spidey takes responsibility for every life he comes in contact with on his mission and truly lives up to Thor’s description of him as “the most Midgard of men”. Throw in Nico Leon’s artwork, and this comic earns an Overall Verdict of Buy.
I would love to be a fly, er, ant on the wall when Leah Williams pitched Giant-Man #1 to Marvel. Basically, four size changing superheroes (Scott Lang aka Ant-Man, Raz Malhotra aka Giant-Man, Tom Foster aka Goliath, and Atlas) grow to their full height, disguise themselves as Frost Giants, and take a trip to Florida to whack Laufey’s Frost Giant buddy, Ymir. Freyja is channeling the power of “big boy season” to get revenge for Laufey eating her adopted son, Loki back in War of the Realms #1. Scott wants to go back to Florida to look for his daughter, Cassie, and Williams and artist Marco Castiello do a great job having him and Freyja connect over their love for their children. Their care also extends to Goliath, who struggles with powers and being in the shadow of his uncle Bill Foster as well as Raz, who is a cute wholesome soul that had a recent breakup with his boyfriend, and of course, Atlas, who is just happy to have a shot at heroism again and comes to the mission already in “giant” mode. At first, Goliath seems like the team asshole, but Williams and Castiello prod his vulnerabilities and insecurity and add layers to his character.
However, for all its humor, general adventurous tone, and creative uses of size changing, Giant-Man #1 has a few flaws. There’s some Freyja dialogue at the beginning when she’s giving the mission that needed to be copy edited, and once the team has their “disguises” on, it’s sometimes hard to tell the characters apart except for Scott, who wears a larger version of his Ant-Man helmet. There’s a real flying by the seat of their pants quality to the characters’ interactions especially once they reach the Frost Giant haven of Yeehaw, Florida, which is a fantastic name for comedy purposes. The cast of Giant-Man has similar powers, but no real bond with each other except for Scott and Raz, who was trained by him in a previous comic. This is a definite liability for such an important mission as this one, and shit almost immediately hits the fan and doesn’t let up. Also, Frost Giant dogs make look cute, but they’re actually pretty scary.
Leah Williams and Marco Castiello go full hog with the fun, weird side of “War of the Realms” in Giant-Man #1, which also features plenty of jokes (Including a very good dick one), three dimensional characters, and characters riding on each other’s shoulders and in pockets. One line of clunky dialogue and occasional art clarity issues aside, it gets an Overall Verdict of Buy.
This was one of the better “War of the Realms” weeks in recent memory with Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, and Matthew Wilson doing strong work with Thor and his family in the main title while Spider-Man and the League of the Realms and Giant-Man showed there’s room for traditional hero stories and wacky capers in this event. War Avengers was kind of a disappointment, but extended panel time for Captain Britain, Union Jack, Sif, and non-surveillance state Carol Danvers is a good time. I like how Dennis Hallum wrote these characters, and maybe we’ll get a spinoff with a better artist. I still don’t get the deal with Weapon H other than as a cash grab.